Photo courtesy of Boston College Arab Students Association / Facebook

ASA Art Night: 'Fitting in' as an Arab Student

On Wednesday, Nov. 8 the Arab Student Association (ASA) held its annual art night, featuring the calligrapher Hajj Wafa and a performance from the BC Middle Eastern Ensemble.

Upon entering the show room, the first thing that caught the eye was a table full of food, trays filled to the brim with morsels from the Middle Eastern restaurant Garlic ‘n Lemons on Harvard Ave. Hummus, falafel, shawarma, garlic sauce, and tabbouli—all delicious.

Hajj Wafaa drew beautiful, curving, and distinctly Arab designs for the attendees. The Middle Eastern Ensemble—complete with tambourines, violins, and a traditional Middle Eastern guitar called an oud—performed a few traditional songs. They will hold their annual concert on Dec. 4.

Perhaps most impressively, four students from the ASA spoke in a panel describing their experiences as students of Arab descent at Boston College and the United States. All of them expressed the personal importance of finding niches of their culture (like the ASA) within the larger cultural sphere of America; these niches allowed them to feel at home.

The panelists also addressed the difficulty of ‘fitting in’ at BC or society as a whole. They mentioned that being Arab, in a sense, kept them from belonging wholly to either the white majority culture or the prominent minority cultures on campus. Nonetheless, the panelists expressed that they loved the diversity and openness of many clubs and groups on campus.

Sarya Baladi, MCAS '19, co-president of the ASA, added that she was extremely impressed with the panelists. She lauded the panel as a “diverse group of students” who showed why it was “extremely important to talk about these issues.”

Baladi noted that even the little things can make Arab students feel as though they don't belong. For example, the acronym AHANA not including MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) students, or not having a separate box to check in the race category on standardized tests. Baladi also mentioned that the new ‘AHANA+’ acronym launched this year has felt much more inclusive. She added that being part of the ASA has been important for feeling like she belongs at Boston College.

“I love being Arab, and I love being American,” Baladi concluded.